Onondaga County will have six, not eight, early voting locations this year.
The county's election commissioners, Dustin Czarny and Michele Sardo, agreed in early May to have six early voting sites for the general election in November. But Czarny, the Democratic elections commissioner, urged Sardo, the Republican elections commissioner, to add two more polling locations: Cicero Town Hall and Onondaga Community College.
The commissioners had until Wednesday to submit any changes to its early voting plan to the state Board of Elections. Since they didn't agree to add more early voting sites, the county will have six locations for the 2019 election.
Sardo said in an interview Wednesday she is complying with the state law "that the Democrats had written." The law signed in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo establishes a nine-day early voting period and requires counties to have at least one early voting site for every 50,000 registered voters.
Onondaga County has more than 300,000 registered voters, so it must have a minimum of six early voting sites.
Future funding for the early voting locations was a concern for Sardo. In the 2019-20 budget, the state provided nearly $25 million to help counties implement early voting. Each early voting site is eligible to receive up to $30,000 in state aid.
"There is no funding for next year," Sardo said, "so I don't want county taxpayers to have to pay for more because $30,000 really isn't a lot of money compared to what we're going to have to use in these polling places."
Czarny views the failure to add other early voting sites as a missed opportunity for the county, especially with state funding available this year.
He pledged to make the six early voting sites — Clay Town Hall, DeWitt Town Hall, Lafayette Fire Station No. 1, Armond Magnarelli Community Center at McChesney Park, Southwest Community Center and Van Buren Town Hall — "be the best they can be to serve all of the citizens of Onondaga County."
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"It's just a shame that we're going to throw away $60,000 in New York state funding to not serve our citizens as properly as we can," he added.
Czarny, with the backing of state and local Democratic officials, wanted Cicero Town Hall and Onondaga Community College added to serve residents of the northeastern and southwestern portions of the county. Residents of Skaneateles, for example, will have to drive at least 20 minutes if they wish to cast an early ballot.
Sardo acknowledged that Democrats "have valid points" about the need for more early voting sites, but she reiterated her stance that the county can't commit any more funds for poll sites.
She also responded to accusations from some Democrats that she's engaged in voter suppression by refusing to add two more early voting sites. She noted that with early voting in place this year, there will be nine additional days — 60 more hours — to vote in Onondaga County. And she reminded voters that during the early voting period they can cast a ballot at any of the six locations.
"I don't know how I'm suppressing the vote," Sardo said.
While the early voting plan is set for 2019, there could be changes in 2020 and future elections.
After the election this year, Czarny said they will reevaluate the early voting plan to determine if any changes should be made.
"I fought 10 years to make early voting a reality," he said in a statement. "I am prepared to fight just as hard to make sure every voter in Onondaga County has access to this vital reform."